St Mary's School (Christchurch) - 17/11/2015

Findings

St Mary’s School (Christchurch) has a welcoming, family focused and multicultural environment.  Relationships are positive at all levels of the school. The school uses reliable learning information well to respond appropriately to the diverse needs of students. The church community and school staff work well together to ensure the special Catholic character is strongly evident in school practices and woven throughout the curriculum.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in three years.

1 Context

What are the important features of this school that have an impact on student learning?

St Mary’s School (Christchurch) is a coeducational Catholic school for Years 1 to 8 students. It is situated next to St Mary’s Parish, which enables close relationships. The school’s well-established history and longstanding traditions related to the Sisters of Mercy, continue to provide an important foundation for education at the school. Christian values are actively shared and promoted across the school and community.

The welcoming, family-focused and multicultural environment includes an increasing number of Pacific and Filipino students and those from other cultures. Students’ identities, languages and cultures are acknowledged and given recognition in learning programmes.

As a result of the Canterbury earthquakes, the school has experienced a very challenging time with a significant roll decline and a number of temporary locations while the school buildings were strengthened. The roll is now increasing and new classrooms will soon be built, giving the school fresh optimism about the future.

The board, leaders and teachers have successfully retained the strengths noted in the 2012 ERO report. They have either addressed or made progress towards addressing areas needing improvement at that time.

2 Learning

How well does this school use achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement?

The school makes good use of a range of reliable learning information to identify and respond appropriately to the diverse needs of students. This is most evident in:

  • the collaborative approach to meeting the school’s charter targets and raising student achievement
  • the increasing range of assessment tools providing a clear picture of those who need extra support.

Student achievement is highest in reading and mathematics. Achievement data shows that students make good progress in the first year of school, particularly in literacy.

Teachers make use of external support to help them increase the levels of progress for students with additional learning needs. The board funds extra resources to support planned interventions for students at risk of not achieving.

Teachers have useful guidelines for assessment practices and making teacher judgements in reading, writing and mathematics against the National Standards. To strengthen their judgements, teachers regularly share examples of students’ writing within St Mary’s and with another school.

Areas for review and development

Teachers gather a range of useful data which is reported to the board. To strengthen this process teachers and senior leaders now need to:

  • more regularly monitor and report the progress of targeted students so programme effectiveness can be quickly adjusted to better meet students’ learning needs
  • undertake deeper analysis and make greater use of student achievement data to identify what is working well and what needs to be done differently to support students’ learning outcomes.

Students' involvement in assessing and reporting their learning could be extended further. This includes teachers:

  • regularly developing learning outcomes with students
  • supporting students to monitor their own progress and know what they need to do to improve
  • making sure students are able to discuss their progress in relation to the National Standards.

3 Curriculum

How effectively does this school’s curriculum promote and support student learning?

Students benefit from a balanced and varied curriculum to support their learning and wellbeing.

The church community and school staff work well together to ensure the special Catholic character is strongly evident in school practices and woven throughout the curriculum. Teachers have ably unpacked the skills and attitudes students need to meet the school’s vision for learners. The values are highly visible, celebrated and promoted across all levels of the school.

Teachers are provided with useful guidelines about the school’s expectations for teaching and learning. Key features of the local curriculum that impact positively on students’ engagement and achievement are the:

  • purposeful links with the wider community that support meaningful learning, particularly in relation to the school’s central-city location and the rebuild of Christchurch
  • high emphasis placed on health and wellbeing in learning programmes
  • school-wide approach to topic learning that enables students to follow their own questions and thinking in increasing depth as they move through the school.

Teachers engage well in discussions about deliberate teaching approaches and how these are best applied in practice. They observe one another and provide feedback to grow and affirm their practice. Efforts to plan collaboratively have increased. The principal and teachers have developed, and are trialling, new planning formats to ensure the content and purpose of students’ learning is more consistent across the school.

Students in the senior school have many opportunities to develop and exercise their leadership skills. They independently set up and run personal interest clubs during break times for the benefit of other students.

Areas for review and development

As the school is preparing for substantial redevelopment, it is timely for the board, principal and teachers to formulate an action plan on how they will move towards a more student-led learning approach. Increasing teachers’ understanding about how to inquire more deeply into their teaching practices will support this process.

How effectively does the school promote educational success for Māori, as Māori?

The school is well placed to increase its ability to effectively promote success as Māori.

Many of the school’s values align well to Māori values. Values most prominent are:

  • the recognition of wairua (spirituality) within school culture, class programmes and the opportunity to celebrate mass in an authentic Māori setting each year
  • manaakitanga in the positive relationships between teachers, students and parents
  • ako as students regularly share their skills and learning with one another.

The Treaty of Waitangi is celebrated annually with Māori students taking a lead role in welcoming students into the school year. While all students learn and use some te reo Māori in class, those in Years 1 to 6 have more regular opportunities to learn te reo Māori.

Areas for review and development

The board and principal should further consider ways of consulting with Māori parents about their aspirations for their children to succeed as Māori. This approach should also be extended to those with Pacific heritage.

Teachers’ confidence and use of te reo and tikanga Māori across the curriculum needs to be further strengthened.

4 Sustainable Performance

How well placed is the school to sustain and improve its performance?

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

Relationships are positive at all levels of the school. Many trustees, school families and experienced staff have long-standing connections with the school and parish. There is a shared culture and holistic approach to student care, wellbeing and achievement outcomes.

The trustees have engaged in professional development to strengthen their understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Trustees are beginning to evaluate the effectiveness of the board through the use of Ministry of Education resources.

The board and staff have a growing understanding of self review and how this can be used to improve outcomes for students. They are at the early stages of making use of student and parent voice to inform curriculum and other school operations.

The principal, supported by the board, makes appropriate use of professional networks to continue to support him in his leadership role.

Areas for review and development

Next steps for the board and principal are to:

  • refine the strategic plan to ensure the focus remains on priorities supporting the forward direction of the school
  • continue to develop the school’s internal evaluation process
  • further strengthen the appraisal process so the principal and teachers receive regular, robust and critical feedback to provide them with suitable levels of challenge.

Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board of trustees and principal of the school completed the ERO Board Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklists. In these documents they attested that they had taken all reasonable steps to meet their legislative obligations related to:

  • board administration
  • curriculum
  • management of health, safety and welfare
  • personnel management
  • financial management
  • asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student achievement:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)
  • physical safety of students
  • teacher registration
  • processes for appointing staff
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.

Conclusion

St Mary’s School (Christchurch) has a welcoming, family focused and multicultural environment. Relationships are positive at all levels of the school. The school uses reliable learning information well to respond appropriately to the diverse needs of students. The church community and school staff work well together to ensure the special Catholic character is strongly evident in school practices and woven throughout the curriculum.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in three years.

Chris Rowe
Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

17 November 2015

School Statistics

Location

Christchurch

Ministry of Education profile number

3535

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

81

Gender composition

Girls 42; Boys 39

Ethnic composition

Pākehā
Māori
Samoan
Filipino
Asian
Other ethnicities

40
  3
  7
17
  2
12

Review team on site

September 2015

Date of this report

17 November 2015

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

September 2012
December 2008
March 2006